On Wednesday, we made our second visit to what became my favorite historical site of this London trip. It wasn’t Buckingham Palace or even Westminster Abbey, as impressive as those were. It was the Tower of London, a walled village within another wall of defense, both walls wide enough to do double duty in housing rooms and towers and living quarters for royalty and servants, soldiers and Yeoman Warders, and the necessary service establishments to run a village.
The Middle Tower & entrance to the Tower; years ago, wild animals were used as another line of defense
You could barely make out the people on the bridge. I kept having to tell myself it was real. When a large boat passed under it, the draw bridge would raise, and the Olympic circles would also raise up.
A catapult sitting in the area that was originally a huge moat fed by the Thames River
We had to wait about 25 minutes for the next tour, but there was plenty to see
Peter, our Yeoman Warder guide, did a great job. If you ever go to the Tower, let a Yeoman walk you through. It makes the tour so much more meaningful. The uniform Peter was wearing was one of many, and they’ve worn this style since 1856 after they figured out the pollution from the Industrial Revolution was causing the expensive red dress uniforms to rot. They only wear the red uniforms on ceremonial occasions since they cost £6,000 each. He told us the E II R beneath the crown on his chest stands for Elizabeth Regina II. Regina means Queen in Latin. He told all sorts of stories about the Tower and the infamous Tower Hill, where many public executions by beheading took place. If the King/Queen favored you, they might let you lose your head within the walls of the Tower rather than in front of thousands of peasants looking to be entertained. And I thought it was just the French who did that for sport!
Traitor’s Gate, where prisoners entered the Tower by the Thames.
The White Tower is the original “tower,” built almost 1,000 years ago. That’s more than 4 times the age of our country! Today it is a museum of arms and armor.
A dragon created with weapons and armor.
Legend says that the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the ravens ever leave the fortress, so they keep 7 ravens with clipped the wings on the grounds. One raven lived to 44 years of age.
All the blue doors represent where the Yeoman Warders and their families live. Some also live in apartments in the round towers.
[photo borrowed from historicallyobsessed.blogspot.com ]
This is the memorial where Anne Boleyn was executed inside the Tower grounds away from the public execution spot on Tower Hill. Our guide said she paid a Frenchman a large sum of money so he would behead her in one chop. Others weren’t so fortunate when it took multiple blows to do the dastardly deed—especially if they wouldn’t pay up. And I do not like Henry VIII. Not at all.
Heads of empires often sent wild animals as gifts, but often their lives were short-lived when the new caretakers hadn't a clue how to feed or keep them.
The Jewel House where the Crown Jewels are kept
Did you know the Crown Jewels are kept at the Tower of London? I didn't know that, but you can get within inches of some of the most unbelievable collection of priceless jewels on crowns, swords, scepters, jewelry, dishes, and other ceremonial and symbolic objects. I'm not into jewelry-- especially expensive jewelry, but this was impressive. And like so many things I saw in London, it was surreal.
So if you ever get the chance to visit London, make sure the Tower of London is high on your list of places to see. If I ever get to go back, I plan to return to the Tower to see all of the things we missed.
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